Blog Birding #77
by Nate Swick
Nathan Pieplow at the ever-fascinating Earbirding, tackles an avian mystery:
Major why-dunits are more common than you might think. Let me put it this way: it’s difficult to take your camera to a local park and capture a bird plumage or behavior that has never before been photographed. But it’s about twenty times easier to make an audio recording of a call or behavior that has never before been audio recorded. And finding out what kind of sound you’ve recorded takes real detective work.
This is a dove detective story. A White-winged Dove detective story, to be precise.
At Birdfellow, Dave Irons takes a close look at seasonal changes in Fox Sparrows, particularly variation in bill coloration and how it pertains to the species' well-known populations:
My experience with Red and Sooty Fox Sparrows led me to believe that their most consistent aspect is bill coloration, which consists of mostly dark horn color on the upper mandible and bright corn-yellow along the basal cutting edge of the upper mandible and most of the lower mandible. I've always thought that this bill coloration was universal among Sooty and Red Fox Sparrows, with Slate-colored Fox Sparrows showing lesser amounts of duller yellow on the bill.
Dave Ringer, writing at 10,000 Birds, considers the evidence that White-breasted Nuthatch is, in fact, four species:
But two studies suggest that White-breasted Nuthatches actually represent four distinctive and largely isolated populations that may deserve full species status.
In 2007, Garth M. Spellman and John Klicka published a paper, Phylogeography of the white-breasted nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis): diversification in North American pine and oak woodlands (full-text PDF), in which they revealed the existence of four distinctive populations based on studies of a single gene. They identified the populations as follows: Eastern clade; Pacific clade; Eastern Sierra Nevada clade; and Rocky Mountain, Great Basin, and Mexico clade.
At Birding is Fun, Chris Petrak attempts to bridge a linguistic gap as broad as the Atlantic with a treatise on "buzzards":
For many years my indulgent spouse allowed an old cowboy hat to perch embarrassingly on top of the grand-father clock. It was a tattered hold-over from youthful days when I experimented with various personae. It had a long dark feather attached to the band. From time to time a visitor in our home would look at the rakish plume on the ragged relic and ask, “Where did you find the buzzard feather?” I usually replied that I had picked it up along some river when I was canoeing.
At North American Birding, the great lister himself, Sandy Komito, regales us with his next great game:
I’ve reached the age and stage in life where I can say anything I want, do anything I want and not worry about what others might say or think. That’s the great part of turning 80. And I like that.
Last year, on April 10th, I started a new birding game for myself. That day, I finally broke down and bought myself one of the new Canon auto-focus digital cameras. The lens, which is a 100—400 mm, is stabilized, which means I probably can get away without having to lug a clumsy tripod along.